On Sunday morning, a leading health expert who advises the Israeli government warned that one out of every three to four people in the country would be infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the next three weeks. He cautioned that most people will not be aware that they are infected because testing kits in the country are running out quickly. Testing facilities all over Israel were inundated on Sunday with huge crowds, as thousands of people had lined up in cars or on foot to get tested. It took hours for them to get tested. The figures published by the Health Ministry on the same day showed that 4,197 new cases were confirmed on Saturday.
This figure was despite the lower number of tests conducted over the weekend, as the positivity rate of the tests rose to 4.57%. The number of daily cases in Israel had been around 1,000 about 10 days ago, but they had reached almost 5,500 on Friday, whereas the total active cases in the country had tripled to reach 31,958. Since the beginning of the pandemic the total number of cases of coronavirus in Israel are close to 1.4 million. However, the increase serious cases appears to be a lot more moderate, as they were 77 on December 22nd and had reached 110 on January 2nd. The death toll stood at 8,244.
Since December 21st, four people have died due to COVID-19 in the country. On Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the weekly cabinet meeting that thousands of daily infections were expected soon. He appreciated the travel restrictions that Israel had imposed, stating that they had helped delay the arrival of the Omicron variant and given Israel the time to study the outbreaks in the United States, Britain, South Africa and other places. Bennett said that their goal had remained the same i.e. to allow the economy to continue functioning as much as possible, while also protecting all those who are vulnerable.
Bennett also added that the government had been talking about potential solutions for the heavy burden on testing facilities and also reported the shortage of testing kits. According to the premier, the country may have to change their criterion about who should and can be tested because of testing kits running short. He added that this phenomenon was happening globally. Hailing from the Weizmann Institute, Prof. Eran Segal handed an official report to the coronavirus cabinet in which he estimates that of the total 9.5 million people in Israel, around 2 to 4 million will be infected with the Omicron variant.
However, he added that the number of serious cases will not exceed the existing record of almost 1,200. As per Israel news, Segal urged people who haven’t gotten their booster dose to do so right away and retweeted the new UK data showing that this dose increases protection against the Omicron variant by almost 52% to 88%. Segal stated that after reaching 20,000 to 30,000 infections a day, Israel will no longer be aware of the numbers because they would run out of testing kits. He added that it had already begun to happen in the rest of the world and would occur here as well.
He said that restrictions that had previously worked for other variants would be rendered ineffective against the Omicron variant and the spread would only stop when everyone who can get infected does. Segal predicted that it would take about three weeks before the numbers start dropping. Even though he didn’t use the term ‘herd immunity’, this prediction appears to be in line with what Nachman Ash, the Director-General of the Health Ministry, had said earlier on Sunday about Israel reaching herd immunity, but after a high number of infections. The logic is that people infected with Omicron are protected against getting it again and the outbreak could end if a greater percentage of the population gets it.